Tag: Jean Renoir

August 22, 2017 / / Special Pages

Editor’s note: Musical in cinema is generally considered an American genre. The very first feature “talkie” The Jazz Singer (1927) is indeed a musical, selling sound as a novelty on the big screen. While musical directors from countries other than the U.S. often admit to being influenced by big Hollywoodian spectacles, the impulse to employ the emotional agency of music in cinema as soon as sound became accessible is not unique to the Americans, as demonstrated by French director René Clair who made Under the Roofs of Paris in 1930. Throughout the history of cinema, non-American musicals have greatly contributed to the sophistication and nuance of the genre. To accompany our Elements of Cinema screening of Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, we picked 6 French musical movies that we think you should know, and watch.

Yangqiao Lu
Editor of Film Notes

Under the Roofs of Paris (Sous les toits de Paris) (1930) dir. René Clair

One of France’s first musicals was not very typical of the genre. With a somber tone, René Clair created a dismal representation of lower-class Paris that was very disparate from the cheerful, operatic musicals that were popular in France during the 30s. French moviegoers expected to be transported away from their problems at the movies, not reminded of them. The film follows a street singer named Albert that falls for Pola, a beautiful Romanian immigrant. However, two other men are also in love with Pola: Albert’s best friend Louis and the incredibly dangerous gangster Fred.

November 23, 2009 / / Main Slate

By Peggy Nelson

Casablanca – 1942 – dir. Michael Curtiz

So.  Here you are, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), a young woman in your twenties, newly hatched and out and about in the world, meeting the usual suspects.  Among them is Victor Laszlo (Paul Heinreid); he’s handsome, passionate, committed to a good cause, the only cause: liberté, égalité, fraternité.  In fact, he’s actually the leader of the resistance!  And single.  And he singles you out.  You cannot believe your luck.  There are many late nights in the café, and then later nights at his apartment.  Your relationship is secret, this is for your protection he says, but that just adds to the aura.  There’s a lot of travel, too; it isn’t safe to stay too long in one place, especially for him.  There seems to be one “it” city every half-century, Paris is currently “it,” and you’ve arrived.

Then the Nazis pick him up.  Then you fall in love.  But not with him.

December 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1983

Prisoner of war films offer an eye-of-the-storm perspective from which to contemplate the chaos of war.  In the tradition of Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion (1937), and David Lean’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence investigates the psyches of men from very different cultures in this tale of British captives in a Japanese POW camp.  Co-written by Oshima and Paul Mayersberg from an Afrikaner’s published memoirs, Oshima uses the perspective of the non-Japanese to turn his lens on WWII Japan.

October 26, 2006 / / Main Slate

In the late 1930s, director Jean Renoir had reached an artistic peak he may not have predicted at the dawn of his career. Many early critics viewed the elaborate star vehicles he concocted for his first wife, Catherine Hessling, saw his famous surname, and wrote him off as a dilettante papa’s boy. Instead of retreating to the mediums he worked with before he picked up a film camera, however, Renoir persevered, and the public greeted his work with both acclaim and controversy.